Grief is weird.
They say time heals all wounds, and to an extent, they’re not wrong. Bones mend, cuts scar, bruises fade. Even heartache lessens over time. But grief can strike when you least expect it, even decades after the loss.
You wake to a brilliant sun in the most cerulean of skies, the emerald grass still dripping with last night’s rain, but there’s a wrongness. The sweet summer breeze that dances past your curtain on its way to tousle your sleep-swept hair cannot lift the strange weight in your chest.
“I just didn’t sleep well,” you tell yourself. You remember seeing the clock far too often throughout the night, that’s all. You can already feel it’s going to be “one of those” Monday’s.
You go through the motions. Brush your teeth. Wash your hair. Make your lunch. Make your coffee. Get dressed. Wake your partner with a kiss goodbye. Drive to work. Sit through meetings. Run reports. Your Monday schedule as usual. Everything is as normal as every other day.
Except for the heaviness in your chest. The tightness in your throat. The short emotional fuse to a bomb that might be rage or might be tears but you hope nothing lights it to find out which.
At some point, you notice the date. A gear clicks into place in your head but you try to shake it loose. That’s ridiculous. It’s been 19 years, after all. You’re just tired. That’s all. It’s just another day. Another June 3rd in a long series of June 3rds. They come every year.
Next year it will be 20 years. Even numbers are more significant for some reason. You remember turning 20. You were twice as old then as when your father died. Half your life spent growing up without him. 21 was the first year you lived longer without him than with him. Now you’re the age he was when your sister was born.
Numbers make things easier to analyze. You associate everything in numbers. There’s no feeling in numbers. They’re clinical and uncaring. You have enough feelings inside you, threatening to burst all the time, and numbers are safe.
But the numbers are not the words. The words are what rattle around inside your head, that keep you up even when you are sleeping. The numbers cannot keep the words from spilling over. They tumble and roll until they coalesce into a mantra.
“Grief doesn’t end. It’s ok to still be grieving.”
Words in the shape of a number. Repetitive. Feeling, yet unfeeling. A silent reminder to tide you over until the day is done and you can cope in the only way you know how.
My father passed away when I was 10. Those early teen years were rough. High school was a nightmare. June was a cursed month. The memorial was still fresh and stinging. His birthday was just shy of two weeks later. Father’s Day stung as much as the memorial, and finals were a week-long stress-fest. I haven’t had June exams since 2007, but I kept the habit of cursing the entire month for years after graduation.
Eventually the day became less painful. It seemed silly to expend so much energy wallowing in grief when so much time had passed. There were far more beautiful things to be celebrating instead. Life goes on. I had to move on too.
Last year the day even snuck up on me. It had been a perfect Sunday. Low 70s, no humidity, no clouds, the coolest breeze. I had spent the day watching Grand Slam tennis with my husband and going shopping for cat toys. At some point I realized the date, but there was no pain attached to the discovery. I was thankful for a beautiful day. He was smiling down on me.
This year, though, despite the weather being much the same, I seemed hyper aware of the date. An internal battle waged all day long between my grief and my rational mind trying to reason that my grief was irrational. It would certainly be foolish to cry at work. It has been 19 years, after all, why should I want to cry now anyway?
Simple. Grief doesn’t end. It is ok to still be grieving. Grief has no expiration date. It simply varies in degree. Some days it’s going to hit you hard. You may not see it coming, and sometimes you might. Grief evolves. You may go years without feeling it, but that doesn’t mean you stopped grieving.
The other important thing to remember is that you are not alone. I may have been inspired to post this in part due to a Facebook status my sister posted about this year being tough on her for some unknown reason. My mother commented that it was hitting her “funny” this year too. I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to write this out, but seeing them talk about their grief publicly and seeing that we were all having the same emotions convinced me to put the feelings into words as best as I could.
And yeah. Grief is weird.
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